Mary Lincoln

“He Bore it as Christ Might have Done”

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That night the President and Mrs. Lincoln entertained General and Mrs. Grant and the General’s staff at dinner on the steamer, and before us all Mrs. Lincoln berated General Ord to the President, and urged that he should be removed. He was unfit for his place, she said, to say nothing of his wife. General Grant sat next and defended his officer bravely. Of course General Ord was not removed.
During all this visit similar scenes were occurring. Mrs. Lincoln repeatedly attacked her husband in the presence of officers because of Mrs. Griffin and Mrs. Ord, and I never suffered greater humiliation and pain on account of one not a near personal friend than when I saw the Head of the State, the man who carried all the cares of the nation at such a crisis-subjected to this inexpressible public mortification. He bore it as Christ might have done; with an expression of pain and sadness that cut one to the heart, but with supreme calmness and dignity. He called her “mother,” with his old-time plainness; he pleaded with eyes and tones, and endeavored to explain or palliate the offenses of others, till she turned on him like a tigress; and then he walked away, hiding that noble, ugly face that we might not catch the full expression of its misery.

By Adam Badeau, Grant in peace: from Appomattox to Mount McGregor, a personal memoir

By Dale Carnegie,“Lincoln, the Unknown” ,Carnegie-191-09

“Always Criticizing her Husband”

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She was always complaining, always criticizing her husband; nothing about him was ever right: He was stoopshouldered, he walked awkwardly and lifted his feet straight up and down like an Indian. She complained that there was no spring to his step, no grace to his movements; and she mimicked his gait and nagged at him to walk with his toes pointed down, as she had been taught at Madame Mentelle’s. She didn’t like the way his huge ears stood out at right angles from his head. She even told him that his nose wasn’t straight, that his lower lip stuck out, that he looked consumptive, that his feet and hands were too large, his head too small.

His shocking indifference to his personal appearance grated on her sensitive nature, and made her woefully unhappy. “Mrs. Lincoln,” says Herndon, “was not a wildcat without cause.” Sometimes her husband walked down the street with one trouser leg stuffed inside his boot-top and the other dangling on the outside. His boots were seldom blackened or greased. His collar often needed changing, his coat frequently needed brushing. James Gourly, who lived next door to the Lincolns for years, wrote: “Mr. Lincoln used to come to our house, his feet encased in a pair of loose slippers, and with an old faded pair of trousers fastened with one suspender”-or “gallis” as Lincoln himself called it. In warm weather he made extended trips “wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat, on the back of which the perspiration had splotched wide stains that resembled a map of the continent.” A young lawyer who once saw Lincoln in a country hotel, getting ready for bed, and clad “in a home made yellow flannel night shirt” that reached “halfway between his knees and his ankles,” exclaimed, “He was the ungodliest figure I ever saw.”

He never owned a razor in his life, and he didn’t visit a barber as frequently as Mrs. Lincoln thought he should. He neglected to groom his coarse, bushy hair, that stood out all over his head like horsehair. That irritated Mary Todd beyond words, and when she combed it, it was soon mussed again, by his bank-book, letters, and legal papers, which he carried in the top of his hat.


“What did Mrs. Lincoln Say?”

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In dealing with Mr. Lincoln’s home life perhaps I am revealing an element of his character that has heretofore been kept from the world; but in doing so I feel sure I am treading on no person’s toes, for all the actors in this domestic drama are dead, and the world seems ready to hear the facts. As his married life, in the opinion of all his friends, exerted a peculiar influence over Mr. Lincoln’s political career there can be no impropriety, I apprehend, in throwing the light on it now. Mrs. Lincoln’s disposition and nature have been dwelt upon in another chapter, and enough has been told to show that one of her greatest misfortunes was her inability to control her temper. Admit that, and everything can be explained. However cold and abstracted her husband may have appeared to others, however impressive, when aroused, may have seemed his indignation in public, he never gave vent to his feelings at home. He always meekly accepted as final the authority of his wife in all matters of domestic concern.

One day a man making some improvements in Lincoln’s yard suggested to Mrs. Lincoln the propriety of cutting down one of the trees, to which she willingly assented. Before doing so, however, the man came down to our office and consulted Lincoln himself about it. “What did Mrs. Lincoln say?” enquired the latter. “She consented to have it taken away.” “Then, in God’s name,” exclaimed Lincoln, “cut it down to the roots!”

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” Herndon-257-04

“Keep up your Courage”

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Mrs. Lincoln, on account of her peculiar nature, could not long retain a servant in her employ. The sea was never so placid but that a breeze would ruffle its waters. She loved show and attention, and if, when she glorified her family descent or indulged in one of her strange outbreaks, the servant could simulate absolute obsequiousness or had tact enough to encourage her social pretensions, Mrs. Lincoln was for the time her firmest friend. One servant, who adjusted herself to suit the lady’s capricious ways, lived with the family for several years. She told me that at the time of the debate between Douglas and Lincoln she often heard the latter’s wife boast that she would yet be mistress of the White House. The secret of her ability to endure the eccentricities of her mistress came out in the admission that Mr. Lincoln gave her an extra dollar each week on condition that she would brave whatever storms might arise, and suffer whatever might befall her, without complaint. It was a rather severe condition, but she lived rigidly up to her part of the contract. The money was paid secretly and without the knowledge of Mrs. Lincoln. Frequently, after tempestuous scenes between the mistress and her servant, Lincoln at the first opportunity would place his hand encouragingly on the latter’s shoulder with the admonition, “Mary, keep up your courage.” It may not be without interest to add that the servant afterwards married a man who enlisted in the army. In the spring of 1865 his wife managed to reach Washington to secure her husband’s release from the service. After some effort she succeeded in obtaining an interview with the President. He was glad to see her, gave her a basket of fruit, and directed her to call the next day and obtain a pass through the lines and money to buy clothes for herself and children. That night he was assassinated.

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life”  Herndon-257-09

“I have had as my Daily Portion”

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A man once called at the house to learn why Mrs. Lincoln had so unceremoniously discharged his niece from her employ. Mrs. Lincoln met him at the door, and being somewhat wrought up, gave vent to her feelings, resorting to such violent gestures and emphatic language that the man was glad to beat a hasty retreat. He at once started out to find Lincoln, determined to exact from him proper satisfaction for his wife’s action. Lincoln was entertaining a crowd in a store at the time. The man, still laboring under some agitation, called him to the door and made the demand. Lincoln listened for a moment to his story. “My friend,” he interrupted, “I regret to hear this, but let me ask you in all candor, can’t you endure for a few moments what I have had as my daily portion for the last fifteen years?” These words were spoken so mournfully and with such a look of distress that the man was completely disarmed. It was a case that appealed to his feelings. Grasping the unfortunate husband’s hand, he expressed in no uncertain terms his sympathy, and even apologized for having approached him. He said no more about the infuriated wife, and Lincoln afterward had no better friend in Springfield.

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life”  Herndon-257-12

“Do Good to them Who Hate you”

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Mrs. Lincoln said: “Some of the newspaper attacks on him gave him great pain. I sometimes read them to him, but he would beg me to desist, saying, ‘I have enough to bear now, but yet I care nothing for them. If I’m right I’ll live, and if wrong I’ll die anyhow; so let them fight at me unrestrained.’ My playful response would be, ‘The way to learn is to hear both sides.’ I once assured him Chase and certain others who were scheming to supplant him ought to be restrained in their evil designs. ‘Do good to them who hate you,’ was his generous answer, ‘and turn their ill-will into friendship.'”

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” , Herndon-299-47     308

“The only Ruler I Have is my Conscience.”

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Mrs. Lincoln said: “I told him once of the assertion I had heard coming from the friends of Seward, that the latter was the power behind the throne; that he could rule him. He replied, ‘I may not rule myself, but certainly Seward shall not. The only ruler I have is my conscience-following God in it-and these men will have to learn that yet.'”

By William H. H

“Love is the Chain whereby to Bind Child to its Parents”

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Mrs. Lincoln said: “As to his nature, he was the kindest man, most tender husband, and loving father in the world. He gave us all unbounded liberty, saying to me always when I asked for anything, ‘You know what you want, go and get it,’ and never asking if it were necessary. He was very indulgent to his children. He never neglected to praise them for any of their good acts. He often said, ‘It is my pleasure that my children are free and happy, and unrestrained by parental tyranny. Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.'”

By William H. Herndon,Jesse W. Weik “Herndon’s Lincoln: A True Story of a Great Life” ,Herndon-299-43